TAMPA, Fla. -- The state says they haven’t found evidence of interference or malicious activity impacting Florida’s online voter registration system.
The announcement comes a day after challenges with the site prompted an extension of the voter registration deadline.
On Monday night, while the site worked at times, error messages popped up for some trying to access the voter registration website ahead of the original 11:59 pm deadline.
- Lawsuit against Gov. DeSantis demands Florida to extend voter registration deadline by 2 additional days
“We did attempt for about six hours for the last moments to try to get him in and the site was crashed, it was very frustrating,” said Jacquelyn Scott.
Scott, a Pinellas County voter, said she was trying to help her 21-year-old stepson register to vote for the first time.
“Voting is our number one priority as Americans and I would do anything to get it done, whether it’s stand in line or whatever has to happen. So it’s very frustrating, in terms of everything we’ve been through in the last few months,” Scott said.
Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee said the site saw unprecedented volume and traffic.
“During the last few hours, the RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov website was accessed by an unprecedented 1.1 million requests per hour. We will work with our state and federal law-enforcement partners to ensure this was not a deliberate act against the voting process,” Lee stated early Tuesday afternoon.
The state re-opened the registration deadline until 7 p.m. Tuesday, both online, in-person and for paper applications postmarked by the date.
It came after calls for an extension, including from Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections and the president of Florida Supervisors of Elections, Craig Latimer.
“On behalf of the Florida Supervisor of Elections, I respectfully request that Florida extend the voter registration deadline to accomodate those citizens who were unable to access the Florida Online Voter Registration system due to the website’s capacity filings on October 5th,” Latimer wrote in a letter to the Governor.
On Tuesday evening, the secretary of state provided another update.
“The Florida Department of State has been in touch with state and federal law enforcement partners since yesterday to discuss the issues that affected Florida's Online Voter Registration system on Monday, October 5, 2020. At this time, we have not identified any evidence of interference or malicious activity impacting the site. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide any additional information as it develops,” stated Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee.
“It’s often the case that when you have overloads, everyone’s experienced it in their own lives where there’s just been too much traffic, and it causes the system to melt down,” said ABC Action News political analyst Dr. Susan MacManus. “The problem was it was at the worst possible time. You know, the last day to register to vote in what’s considered to be the most monumental presidential election ever. So a lot of frustrated people, a lot of angry people, people quick to blame the government.”
Dr. MacManus said it’s not the first time the registration deadline has been extended.
“We have actually extended registration periods several times before. Before we had online registration, which has only been since 2017, there were several times where registration was extended because of hurricanes. And so that was a weather-related reason for delaying,” Dr. MacManus said. “But just a couple other times, it was the volume of people at the last minute that also caused governors to extend the registration period.”
Scott said her step-son registered to vote Tuesday through Rock the Vote.
Meanwhile, other voters took advantage of the extra time and decided to visit in person to fill out their application.
“I didn’t get a chance to register over the past few weeks and I saw the deadline was previously the 5th and I never got a chance to register, so I was very discouraged about that because I feel like I have a need. Very American to take point in this election. You know it’s a very controversial election. It’s gonna determine the way of our country for the next four years. So I when I woke up this morning, I saw the deadline had been extended to the 6th at 7 p.m., I was overjoyed,” said WC Smith, who said he’s a first-time voter, while stopping by the office for the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections.
Some areas are reporting more voter registrations than ever before, including in Hillsborough County. There, the supervisor of election’s office reports there are more than 925,000 voter registrations. While it said they didn’t see as many people registering Tuesday as Monday, they still saw dozens.
Pinellas County’s Supervisor of Election’s also reported record numbers, with more than 706,000 voter registrations.
Pasco County’s Supervisor of Elections reports more than 391,000 voter registrations. The supervisor of elections said they saw more than 600 people register to vote Tuesday through the state’s online voter registration portal.
Meanwhile, several organizations filed a lawsuit against Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee and Governor Ron DeSantis Tuesday over the issues, pushing for an extension of the deadline by at least two days.
The lawsuit was filed by Advancement Project National Office, Demos, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer on behalf of Dream Defenders, New Florida Majority, Organize Florida, and Florida Immigrant Coalition.
The lawsuit states in part:
“This is not the first time the system has crashed; the State has long been aware of its vulnerabilities, particularly on the final day of registration when peak usage occurs. This time, however, the consequences are more severe than ever, as Floridians have depended on OVR at a time when the deadly coronavirus pandemic requires them to quarantine at home. The result of the state’s failure to keep the OVR system operational was that many Floridians were unable to register to vote at all. Without action by this Court, these aspirational voters will be unable to cast a ballot in the Presidential Election and will be deprived of their fundamental rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.”
The Advancement Project said the extended deadline was not enough time for groups to re-engage canvassers and volunteers to educate voters there could try to register again.
“We wanted to assist people in successfully voting in the November election, but this was made more difficult by Florida’s failure to allow voters to register to vote through its OVR page on the last day of voter registration,” stated Nailah Summers, Communications Director of the Dream Defenders, in a news release. “We did not have an effective alternative means to assist eligible unregistered Floridians to register before the deadline. Given that reality, we are concerned that many people who wanted to vote will be unable to cast a ballot on Election Day.”
The Florida Department of State told ABC Action News it was reviewing the lawsuit and considering next steps.
A spokesperson for the Governor’s Office stated, "there is no basis in law or equity that would supersede the Secretary's power to re-open at her discretion and subsequently set a corresponding new time to close the books. After 7pm tonight the amount of time to register under Florida law will have been available to all residents of the state. Joe Biden called today victory for Democracy. Seems odd to file a lawsuit to overturn such a victory."
Earlier in the day former Vice President Joe Biden tweeted in part, “Florida — today's decision to extend the voter registration deadline is a win for our democracy.”
Meanwhile, people are already are returning mail-in ballots. Hillsborough County’s Supervisor of Elections said so far, more than 71,000 have been returned. If someone believes they made a mistake on it, they urge them to contact them.
The deadline to request a Vote By Mail ballot is no later than 5 p.m. on the 10th day before the election. Ballots must be received no later than 7 pm Election Day.